Sunday, June 9, 2013

21st century learning - inequitable access Scenario: A fictional newspaper article

The following is a fictional newspaper article of a possible future scenario for primary education, followed by comments by fictional readers.

Acme Corp. to donate 500 tablet computers to school

The hall in Smallville Primary school was filled with excitement when principal Seymour Skinner announced the $250,000 worth donation from Acme Corporation to equip all students with Acme tablets. “This is an exciting moment for our small school! We are a low decile school and we do our best to ensure that our students are given equal opportunities to develop their skills to prepare them for the world. We are really grateful to Acme for their generosity” principal Skinner says. “BYOD wasn’t an option for us as it was in other schools – most of our students could not afford it. I now see new learning opportunities rising for my students and for me as a teacher now!” Year 4 teacher Mr Garrison says.

“The world advances, technology advances and schools have to keep up. We understand how challenging this can be for low decile schools and we all need to do our best to give them a helping hand. This is the least that Acme corp. can do to contribute to the preparation of tomorrow’s citizens and employees” Acme representative Elmer Fudd says.


Mary B. 5 hours ago
Am I the only one who finds this suspicious? Acme’s charter High school was in the news last month for its low enrolment numbers. And what do they mean by employees? Their employees?

Susan G. 3 hours ago
I hear you Mary B. It just doesn’t feel right. I understand that low decile schools are in greater need of resources now but the so called 21st century learning is for the good of the public, then the public should fund these resources for low decile schools as well.

Brian T. 2 hours ago
I think this is a great move from Acme corp and a great example for other companies as well. My kids are very lucky to go to a school that all kids have access to computers – even those who can’t afford it they can hire laptops from the school. I compare this to my sister’s kids, they don’t even know how to use a search engine. Even if this donation is to attract Smallville primary students to their charter high school, these kids will be trained by one of the biggest multinational companies and they will secure their future.

Sally R. 2 hours ago
I agree with you Brian. My kids’ school is somewhere in the middle, some of the classes use computers, some other’s don’t. I am worried about my kids’ future and if I had the opportunity I would move to a better suburb to give my kids’ a better chance.

Mary B. 1 hour ago

I understand your concerns Sally R., I am a mother of three and I have the same concerns. But what happens to all those kids that don’t have the opportunity to go to a higher decile school? It seems to me that we increase the divide instead of decreasing it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scenario Planning for primary/secondary education in NZ

E-Learning is growing fast in New Zealand schools and has been one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education over the last few years.  Major disruptions in Canterbury schools, due to the 2010-2011 earthquakes have shown the potential of e-Learning to increase resilience (Davis, 2011). Schools’ involvement in the national Virtual Learning Network that enables students to enrol in online courses, regardless of their geographic area has further shown the potential of e-Learning to increase flexibility and student choice (Pratt & Trewern, 2011). The government’s initiative to implement Ultra Fast Broadband in Schools (UFBiS) with ongoing support from the Network 4 Learning ( and the enabling e-Learning website ( is expected to further increase the uptake of e-Learning in schools.

As a result of this, BYOD is one of the key trends in New Zealand primary/secondary education, which is also one of the key trends in the 2013 horizon report (NMC, 2013):
As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices. (p.4)
In addition, the focus on 21st century teaching and learning is challenging the traditional role of students and teachers, a key trend that is also identified in the 2013 Horizon report (NMC, 2013):
The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. (p.4)

These trends involve a range of uncertainties that can be placed on the two axes of the scenario matrix:  
Equity vs inequity: With regards to BYOD, it is normal to expect that, in conjunction with UFB, it will enable equitable access to information/resources/learning opportunities. On the other hand, the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ might become bigger. Therefore one of the key uncertainties is whether BYOD will increase educational equity or create inequity issues.
Traditional vs 21st century teaching & learning: 21st century teaching and learning involves the use of digital technologies in the classroom, but it also involves more learner control and less traditional direct instruction. Teachers’ needs for adequate PD will increase, not only in terms of how to use the new tools, but also in terms of  how to effectively implement them to facilitate (not direct) student learning. However, one of the key uncertainties is whether schools and teachers will eventually enable the 21st century learner or ICT will be used as a way to sustain traditional instruction with the teacher still being at the centre of the instruction.

Using the scenario matrix, the 4 scenarios for the future of primary/secondary education in New Zealand are:

1.  Traditional teaching & learning – equitable access: Schools are implementing BYOD with devices that are purchased by parents, with funding from other organizations where needed. Schools are connected and collaborating in clusters, depending on their needs/goals, often driven by the need to have access to more resources/content. Shared content is often copyrighted. Teachers are often involved in structured PD sessions within and beyond the school where the early adopters/experts share how to use new and existing tools. E-learning is implemented as a way to extend students’ learning experiences outside the classroom, with continuous guidance from teachers (online or onsite).

2. 21st century teaching & learning – equitable access: BYOD is funded by families/whānau or other bodies where needed. Teachers form their own communities of practice, with interest groups within and beyond the school, sharing educational practices and ideas. Student-centred, creative, collaborative learning is encouraged. Personal online learning environments are student-created, often shared with families/whānau, increasing the links between schools and the community. Collaboration between schools enables students and teachers to form their own learning communities, regardless of the geographic area of their school. Shared ownership of content and CC licensing is more prevalent.

3.  21st century teaching & learning – inequitable access: Schools provide a limited number of devices to students who don’t own one to use in school and/or to hire for use at home. Students who have and bring their devices in school are often sharing them with other students. Learning through collaboration is more prevalent. Teachers are engaged in PD within and beyond their school, often working in communities of practice, sharing open content/resources. Teachers and schools are more likely to join groups/communities that have similar access levels.

4. Traditional teaching & learning – inequitable access: Schools are working in silos depending on their access levels. Teachers are encouraged to engage in PD, mainly within the school. Links with other schools are seen as a way to increase access to resources and content. Schools are trying hard to protect the ownership of their resources/content. Students are encouraged to bring their own devices in class at times when a lesson is planned accordingly. These devices are often shared between students who are given direct instructions on how to use them.    

Reflecting on this attempt to use scenario planning for primary/secondary education in New Zealand, I find that this is a fascinating process, that engages the brain in constant thinking about the trends, uncertainties and involved implications. The more I engage with the scenario matrix, the more I have to face my own biases, which confirms to me that this needs to be a collaborative process. 

Davis, N. (2011). Online and blended learning rolling into New Zealand Schools. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, teaching, technology, 23(1), 1-7. Retrieved from
New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Project Preview 2013 K-12 Edition. Retrieved from
Pratt, K., & Trewern, A. (2011). Students’ experiences of flexible learning options: What can they tell us about what they need for success? Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(2).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Scenario planning - a way of thinking

Scenario planning is a creative process of looking into the future to inform strategic planning. It is not a way to predict the future, but to be prepared for possible directions of the present (and maybe to avoid the mistakes of the past!). We live in a world that is constantly changing and therefore it is difficult to know how the future will be like to inform planning for education. What we can do however is to identify major trends that are likely to have a great impact on the wider context in which education is embedded. These trends should not be limited to those that are directly linked to education. Within a wider local, national and global ecosystem, there are political, environmental, social etc factors that have an effect on education, which we may not be able to identify if we look at scenario planning from a single perspective.

I find that scenario planning is not just a planning tool, but also a way of thinking that can make people accept the fact that we don’t know and we can’t control everything. However we can be prepared for alternative futures. I believe that it is a collaborative process, where individuals with different roles and perspectives come together and look into the future from different points of view. Through this workshop I am planning to further reflect on scenario planning in the context of primary/secondary education in New Zealand, perhaps with a little bit more focus in Christchurch, a city that is being rebuilt after two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, at a time where Ultra Fast Broadband in schools across the country is on its way.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scenario planning on shaky ground

Greetings fellow MOOCers!
One more exciting opportunity to participate in an OpenMassive Online Course via Wikieducator! Last year I completed the eLearning and Digital Technologies MEd at the University of Canterbury. Investigating change with digital technologies was and still is part of my learning journey. I was also an assistant researcher for the DEANZ case study on future scenarios for New Zealand tertiary education.
This year I am working as a primary and secondary Science Educator in Christchurch, New Zealand and I am delighted to look into scenario planning from a different perspective. Christchurch has had many disruptions over the last couple of years due to over 10,000 earthquakes (!), but there are also many interesting things happening with eLearning in schools as a result of that. Although the Christchurch experience has taught us that things don’t always go the way you planned, it has also taught us how to be more resilient and adaptable when on shaky ground (literally!).
I find that scenario planning is a way to increase resilience in change, without excluding adaptation and I am looking forward to further explore this in terms of education in Christchurch. I am excited to have the opportunity to connect with fellow educators and look at different scenario planning case studies in different educational contexts! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Researching multiple roles and ecologies

One of the great things of studying online is that you can work at your own pace. I have been very busy over the last weeks, getting prepared for the annual ULearn conference in New Zealand, so I had to pause for a while my VS MOOC attendance. As always, this year ULearn was a successful conference with over 300 workshops to select from! I'm now back on track with the VC MOOC course, focusing on the third topic - Research into K-12 online learning - and the question: Given your specific interest in K-12 virtual schooling research, where are questions left unanswered? Why is that question (or those questions) important?

Having a specific interest in blended teaching and learning, this is where I would like to focus on regarding this question. Blended earning is developing fast in educational providers around the world. We have many teachers implementing a range of online tools in their face to face classes, as a way to enhance students' learning experience and we also have another type of blend with online distance courses that students can take in addition to the face to face courses that their schools offer, as for example courses through the Virtual Learning Network here in NZ.

Across the literature there are a range of advantages that blended approaches involve for school students, such as increased flexibility, independent learning and enhanced collaboration opportunities. However, the effective implementation of blended approaches is a complex process with many threads connecting to make it happen (Davis, 2008). It is not only a matter of teacher, school leader and student readiness, since there are other individuals and their organizations within and beyond the school that have an important role in the effective implementation of blended approaches.

Taking an ecological perspective, Davis presented the arena of change with digital technologies, aiming to clarify this complexity (Davis, 2008; Davis, Eickelmann & Zaka, in press). The arena shows that change with ICT in classrooms depends on the schools in which they are embedded in; schools are also nested within a wider ecosystem that includes additional organizations that can impact on change with ICT in a classroom/school. Therefore, in addition to teachers, students and school leaders, there are other educational stakeholders whose roles are important in the whole process, such as individuals in professional, bureaucratic, political and commercial organizations. And as blended teaching and learning continues to grow, there are a range of roles and responsibilities in different ecologies that research needs to clarify, in order to develop best practices.

Davis, N. (2008). How may teacher learning be promoted for educational renewal with IT? Models and theories of IT diffusion. In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (eds), International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp.507-519). New York: Springer.
Davis, N. E., Eickelmann, B., & Zaka, P. (in press). A co-evolutionary perspective on the restructuring of schooling systems in the digital age. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

Are we there yet?


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Student outcomes: Shifting focus

The second topic of the Virtual Schooling MOOC focuses on the history of distance learning. It is very interesting to see that the history of distance learning goes back many years – early 1700’s – and that increasing access to education has been one of its major purposes. This second topic ends with this activity:

On your blog, post an entry where you:
1. Make a case either that K-12 online learning must achieve (a) equivalent student outcomes or (b) improved student outcomes, to justify its use in expanding access to curricula or providing educational choices.

If we look at K-12 online learning as a way to expand educational access to curricula, it is like saying that it is an alternative to face to face teaching and learning and therefore we expect it to result in equivalent student outcomes. However, K-12 online learning implementation in classrooms across the world has shown that it is an option that does not only provide an alternative way to achieve the same outcomes we can achieve with face to face teaching, but a way to achieve different outcomes.

ICT and the www have transformed key aspects of our society and it is also pushing for educational change (McLeod, 2011). Students have to be prepared for a world that we don’t know how it will be. That is why collaboration, independent and lifelong learning, reflective thinking are important skills that students need to develop today more than ever. Online education has the potential to encourage the development of these skills if implemented effectively. 

I don’t think that with online education we can achieve better results – we can achieve different results. That is why with reference to the use of online education the focus should be on improved outcomes, but in terms of quality, rather than quantity. This requires a big shift in our ideas about education, knowledge (Gilbert, 2007) and what matters as student outcomes.

Gilbert, J. (2007). Knowledge, the disciplines and learning in the digital age. Journal of Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 6(2), 115-122.
McLeod, S. (2011). Two big shifts and one big problem: The growing disconnects between schools and our digital global society. Keynote at the Learning@School 2011 conference, Rotorua, New Zealand.